Saturday, 22 October 2016

Needles and Bones

Late last year I had a frightening time when I went to see a client in a third floor apartment. By the time I got up the stairs I could barely breathe and my heart was pounding. I decided that I must be even more unfit than I realised and vowed to work on my health into the new year, which I have done but not in the way I expected.
Soon after I made this decision I went for a routine check up and found that I was severely anaemic, so much so that my doctor "borrowed" another persons iron injection to give me a shot before I left the clinic.
And so I started on a long process of injections and blood tests. I was also referred to a gastrology clinic with a view to having a gastroscopy/colonoscopy. Throughout the process I saw three doctors: one thought my iron stores were depleted by menstruation and the condition could be managed, one was panicked by a traumatic experience with another patient, got it into his head that I was post menopausal and thought I must be losing blood through a tumour, one (a gastroenterologist) suggested that if I saw a gynaecologist I could have a hysterectomy.
All the while I was trying to buy time to get my iron stores up and take away everyone's panic but we eventually came to the place where I had taken taken shots and supplements, bargained and waited but needed regular heavy duty supplementation to stay within the guidelines.

I felt sure that acupuncture could help me but our universal healthcare system covered me for free hospital clinics and acupuncture would be costly so I had hoped to somehow sort it out through the medical system.

After I had done as much waiting, supplementing and testing as I could reasonably expect, the next step of the plan was to have a colonoscopy and simultaneous double iron infusion. The procedure wouldn't cost anything but the drugs would cost somewhere close to $200. Still reasonably certain that my problem didn't stem from my gut, I decided to spend the money on acupuncture and revisit the medical system if necessary.

The acupuncturist, Kaikit, noted that my pulse indicated a "blood deficiency" which is detectable to the practitioner of Chinese medicine before the point where a person would be diagnosed as anaemic. She commented that the puffy ankles I have had for some years, as well as my chapped lips were both caused by blood deficiency, she also told me that my sleep was probably very disturbed (which it was) and said that they all stemmed from the same thing, that three (long ago) pregnancies and hard work had led to some depletion and that I was unable to hold energy (or blood) in my system.

She got to work straight away with some needles and prescribed herbs for me to take at home. That evening I fell asleep at nine and slept right through to the morning. By the end of the weekend, my ankles were thin for the first time in years.

I had weekly visits for three weeks, then waited two weeks. Kaikit said my progress was surprisingly fast and I would soon be able to stop treatment or just come and be checked once a month.

Two weeks later Kaikit thought that I had developed a little blood deficiency again and I remembered that I had lost sleep on a couple of nights, she recommended that I eat more red meat, especially lamb.
Given that I am in a process of trying to eat less meat, I decided to use the best thing I could and use less of it so I bought some lamb bones and simmered them for a full 24 hours. I put a little broth in an otherwise vegetarian soup and that night I slept the sleep of the innocent.

I have yet to get my iron levels checked but my colour is good, my stamina is better and I feel that my anaemia saga is over (with a little tweaking now and again maybe) and the total cost has been about $250 plus a bag of bones.

This has been a long story but I feel it is one worth telling, I hope it might be useful to someone.


  1. This is fascinating.
    You really did get the medical run around, didn't you?
    My iron levels are very, very high (despite being a vegetarian). At intervals they suggest it could be a problem.
    Puffy ankles? Snap. Broken sleep? Snap again. And fatigue.
    I have been toying with the idea of visiting a Chinese medicine practioner, and you have nudged me further along the path.
    I am so glad you are feeling better.

  2. EC,
    I got the run around partly because I wasn't very compliant! Although in this case I think compliance would have been fairly useless.

    High iron levels ring bells with me for a genetic variation called MTHFR, though my understanding in this area is poor.

    I'm pretty sure that a TCM practitioner can make a difference to pretty much anyone's general wellbeing


  3. It is a good thing that you caught the iron deficiency when you did. It was providence that you climbed those staircases and then found out why you were like that. I wish you speedy recovery and all the best for maintaining good health.

  4. Well I'm glad your health is better now. I need to get healthy too.

  5. Very instructive that the orthodox medics were pretty useless - and suggested some totally absurd diagnoses - while the acupuncturist put you right remarkably quickly. It does make you wonder why acupuncture is so widely rubbished instead of approached with an open mind. I don't have any of the problems you mention, but if I did I'd certainly give acupuncture a go.

  6. Joey,
    I think most people feel like they should do more for their health, no matter where they are on the spectrum!

  7. Nick,
    We have used acupuncture for sinus, hayfever, reflux and sprain injuries. It's very versatile

  8. On orthodox medicine, I believe that doctors are well intentioned and do a lot of good but there is an awful lot missing from their toolbox

  9. Wow! Yes, very interesting. I take iron supplements when I feel run down and tired... or molasses - usually perks me up.
    I hope your health continues to improve.

  10. I have had to dig in my heels sometimes to get treatment I needed and to avoid treatment I did not need. Good for you!

  11. Ms Scarlet,
    My mother used to take molasses so your comment is a blast from the past!
    I have used nettle tea to supplement iron but molasses is too horrid :)

  12. Linda,
    I am becoming better at declining or negotiating treatments i don't especially agree with but I'm not sure I would successfully advocate for myself in the case of needing something that is not offered.


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